Various Artists: One Night In Pelican

On two LPs bands associated with South Africa's Club Pelican meld jazz, funk, soul and local styles such as mbaqanga


Matsuli Music presents an array of tracks from various South African groups who all coalesced around an influential nightclub in the 1970s. The title refers to Club Pelican, in Soweto, Johannesburg, which was the first nightclub in the district. The musicians who played there combined jazz, funk and soul as well as popular music and local styles like mbaqanga, and the venue became a locus for experimentation and creativity.

The artists featured here are not well-known and for some tracks only guesses are made for the personnel list, but the compilation paints a picture of the musical influences and the creative energy of the era, and shows how significant a single venue can be.

The first album opens with with Dick Khoza And The Afro Pedlars’ Chapita, a grooving track from a large ensemble including horn section, with the sound certainly reflecting 70s funk. It closes with Sugar Pie by Spirits Rejoice, a more pop-style love song with a touch of psychedelia.

On the second LP, The Headquarters’ Moshate is a funk-based instrumental, with horn and string section. It’s followed by The Shyannes’ upbeat Asso-Kam, and you can imagine how these bands would have sounded live in the buzz of a brand new venue almost 50 years ago.

So influential was the nightclub that some of the tracks themselves refer to it, such as the notably jazz-influenced Pelican Fantasy and the Night In Pelican from the first LP and Pelican City on the second, an extended track with gritty rock guitar and saxophone improvisation.

The gatefold cover illustration is taken from one of the groups’ original album covers, with the sleeves showing more original artwork and photos of the musicians and groups, as well as extensive liner notes that detail the significance of Club Pelican and the bands that played there. The recordings were all released between 1974 and 1977, and One Night In Pelican presents a fascinating glimpse into a musical scene that is rarely given the spotlight.

LP1: Chapita; Pelican Fantasy; Sugar Pie; The Webb; Night In Pelican (40.27)
LP2: There Goes; Moshate; Asso-Kam; Pelican City; I Have A Dream (40.36)
Various artists. South Africa, 1974-77.
Matsuli Music MM125